Carter wins the trust of his mask-wearing captors by jumping around a couple of times and defeating poorly rendered armies of giant CGI spiders. He becomes a chief among the Tharks and earns the nickname “Grasshopper”. Which is total bullshit. How would these space aliens even know what a grasshopper is, especially when they live on a desert planet void of grass?
And speaking of grass, whoever cast Traci Lords as the titular (haha, “tit”!) role of Princess Dejah Thoris should go back to mowing lawns for a living. The former underage porn star turned D-list actress is woefully miscast, even by Asylum standards. She’s supposed to be the most beautiful and youthful woman in the universe. She looks like a less attractive version of the wife from “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Couldn’t they at least hire someone who’s pre-menopausal? Who wants to watch an aging ex-porn star stumble around a desert in a rented Slave Leia outfit? Lords and Sabato Jr. have zero onscreen chemistry. I have a more convincing relationship with the iPhone’s Siri app than these two hams.
This is Traci Lords smiling. That’s the same face I made while watching this cinematic shit stain.
Lords is embarrassing to watch as she contorts her face and stares vacantly into the camera, all in a misguided attempt to seem “dramatic”. She’s like Norma Desmond from Sunset Blvd. (1950), minus the dignity. Witness her Oscar moment, which unfortunately is the best-acted scene in the whole movie:
Let’s have less haughty, more hottie.
As hard as it is to believe, it only goes downhill from here. A thrilling arena battle scene doesn’t even take place in an arena ’cause they couldn’t afford sets or CGI. Instead it takes place in a “natural amphitheatre”, with Tharks standing on a cliff looking down as Carter defeats a handful of extras with the aid of clumsy fight choreography. As an added bonus, this scene features the most cringe-inducing line of dialogue in the whole movie:
Sabato Jr. seems oddly proud of that painfully dated remark. And look at that little nod he does at the end. He must’ve really nailed it on that take.
Things get even more bafflingly bad when it’s revealed that the Big Baddie is really an Afghani terrorist who wants to use his evil terrorist powers to terrorize the terrified people of “Mars”. It all reaches a climax (although “climax” would imply this film actually has “rising action”) with Carter and the terrorist engaging in a stultifying sword fight with lots of superhuman leaping. They saved all the superpowers for this one scene. Here’s some “highlights”:
Perhaps I’m expecting too much from the director of Snakes on a Train, AVH: Alien vs. Hunter, and MILF.
The Asylum’s Princess of Mars is the greatest squandered opportunity in cinematic history. The company had a chance to break away from their usual bottom-feeding dreck and gain some prestige. Instead they made something more disappointing than the Star Wars prequels and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull combined. Sure, this may be the most competently made Asylum film I’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the worst films ever made. It’s a failure in every sense of the word. To call the acting amateurish would be an insult to talented amateur thesps everywhere. The special effects are anything but. I can’t even recommend the costumes.
But the greatest crime of all isn’t that it’s a bad movie. It’s that it’s just plain boring. Burroughs’ novel has captivated audiences for a hundred years. This flick could barely kept me awake for 90 minutes. The Asylum’s Princess of Mars is a forgettable, overwhelmingly underwhelming SyFy snore fest… a century in the making.
Zero out of 16 GB
Princess of Mars has been in development hell longer than any other movie in history: 78 years.
In 1931 Looney Tunes animator Bob Clampett tried to adapt it into the first feature length animated film, a full six years before Disney’s Snow White (1937). Clampett and Burroughs’ son, John Coleman Burroughs, later tried to make John Carter animated shorts for MGM. Test audiences in the Midwest rejected the idea of an Earthman on Mars as “too outlandish”. Here’s some surviving test footage:
From the 1950s to the ‘80s, famed stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts) made many abortive attempts. At one point John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard) was to direct Tom Cruise in the lead role.
In the early-to-mid 2000’s, Ain’t It Cool News founder (and neck beard enthusiast) Harry Knowles oversaw the project at Paramount. At various points he hired Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), Kerry Conran (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) and Jon Favreau to direct. Paramount later dropped the project in favour of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. As a consolation prize Favreau was given the directorial reins to Iron Man (2008).
The Asylum didn’t have to buy the rights to Burroughs’ novel because it is in the public domain. All the other studios who’ve attempted to make movie versions of “A Princess of Mars” bought the rights out of respect to the Burroughs Estate.
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